Tag Archives: wholeness

Reaching Out

If
I
could
just
reach,
touch,
know
your power,
your healing,
your strength
in my life.

If
I
could
just
get you
to come
with me,
to me,
to my place of need.

If you would,
I would know
peace,
strength,
hope
in you.

However lost,
broken,
hopeless,
in you
there is always
your presence,
your love,
your promise
of another day,
another way.

I reach out
to you,
knowing
you
are already
reaching out
to me,
holding my pain,
longing
that I let you.

Mark 5:21-43 (CEV)

A Dying Girl and a Sick Woman

21 Once again Jesus got into the boat and crossed Lake Galilee. Then as he stood on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. 22 The person in charge of the Jewish meeting place was also there. His name was Jairus, and when he saw Jesus, he went over to him. He knelt at Jesus’ feet 23 and started begging him for help. He said, “My daughter is about to die! Please come and touch her, so she will get well and live.” 24 Jesus went with Jairus. Many people followed along and kept crowding around.

25 In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse.

27 The woman had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him in the crowd and barely touched his clothes. 28 She had said to herself, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.” 29 As soon as she touched them, her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.

30 At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Look at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?” 32 But Jesus turned to see who had touched him.

33 The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.

34 Jesus said to the woman, “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from Jairus’ home and said, “Your daughter has died! Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Jesus heard what they said, and he said to Jairus, “Don’t worry. Just have faith!”

37 Jesus did not let anyone go with him except Peter and the two brothers, James and John. 38 They went home with Jairus and saw the people crying and making a lot of noise. 39 Then Jesus went inside and said to them, “Why are you crying and carrying on like this? The child isn’t dead. She is just asleep.”40 But the people laughed at him.

After Jesus had sent them all out of the house, he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples and went to where she was. 41-42 He took the twelve-year-old girl by the hand and said, “Talitha, koum!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got right up and started walking around.

Everyone was greatly surprised. 43 But Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”

Amazing Grace

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Caring for The Battered and Broken

This is part three.  Having looked at health, or lack of it, and healing; how can someone on the outside help?

Pastorally we have to be prepared to be alongside people as they go into their own desert.  People need to be able to pour out to someone the fears that they have buried deep, or that are bubbling near the surface.  Just sharing those feelings with someone can make them less frightening, as they are acknowledged.  People may be reluctant to express such deep personal feelings that pain and suffering bring.  One of the privileges in life is being the one someone feels they can ‘let go’ to.  Someone ‘putting on a brave face’, may just have no opportunity, or tools, to face or express their fears.  They may need some company, some care, some holding.

Norman Autton in his book, Pain – An Exploration, makes the  comment that children should always be given permission to feel pain.  Adults too, particularly sometimes christians, need to know that there is no need to be brave or ‘cope’.   Feeling the pain is the only way it can be let out for healing.

Denis Duncan in Health and Healing: A Ministry to Wholeness reminds us that christian pastoral care, including to ourselves, is the acceptance of people where they are, in order to take them to where God wants them to be ‘warts and all’.  This is very positive, except that we can never take them.  What we can do is accompany them as they make the journey there themselves.

What anyone offering care needs is sensitivity.  Such comments as, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ are not particularly helpful when it doesn’t feel it.  It may ultimately become true, but takes reconciling to the situation first. There will undoubtedly be some positives to come from the suffering, but that does not remove the pain of the struggle.  It can be too easy to produce platitudes that nothing can separate us from the love of God, or that there is glory waiting beyond the tears.  I firmly believe that

all things work together for good for those who love God  (Rom 8:28),

but at times of struggle it was the last thing I wanted to hear.  Not because I no longer believed it, but at that time I could not assimilate it into my experience.  To glibly quote scripture references can show total lack of empathy and can appear to belittle the problem.

If we can, however use the bible sensitively and positively, there are many verses that do offer hope and comfort.  For example, Isaiah 43:1-2, reminds us that God is with us in situations that threaten to consume and overwhelm us; Psalm 23 speaks of the Psalmist’s assurance that God is with him in the valleys; and for me Habakkuk 3:17-20 encapsulates the acceptance and ability to live with having no answers, but finding something in that, and still being able to cling on because of his trust in God, when everything else has disappeared.

We should not be afraid to say that we have no answers, there is more honesty in that than trying to grope for quick-fix solutions.  And honesty is the one thing that is appreciated.  Sometimes nothing more is needed than a being with.

And that is the point I come to.  If it sounds positive, it has come from a place of great pain. Only the answer has survived on paper – but the pain was deep and life-transforming.  Ask those who were around me then how many times I preached on being in the desert – because that is where I was and all I could do.  I’m not trying to put just a positive spin on it, but to try to share some of what I learned, and in sharing it all again, it has helped me with where I find myself again.  Healing and wholeness are ongoing.  Living with ongoing illness regularly throws up new discoveries and realities to be assimilated. As does life for each one of us.

I hope sharing this has helped someone.  If you’ve got any comments, please share them below for everyone to share in.

I’ll leave you with my conclusion, that sixteen years on and a few crises later, still, I think, holds true:

So for me, both personally, and as a basis for pastoral care, there has to be the offer of healing and wholeness, whatever the state of our mind and body.  It may not be healing as we would like it or recognise it, but that does not mean it is not.

I believe firmly, passionately and with experience that we can lay our pain with the one who took our pain upon himself, and receive Life in its true fullness.  If we do not believe that what else have we to offer to a hurting world?

And so I return to my very practical definition of healing:

accepting all that we are, and all that we will never be, incorporating that into ‘me’ – and being able to live with it.

What is Healing?

This is part 2 of thinking around health and healing.  It follows on from What is Healing?

It would be fair to say, that when someone says ‘healing’ with think of restoration to how things were, maybe even ‘back to normal’ and everything being ok.  That is not always what happens, or apparently not, so can there still be healing?  I would say there can be – a deeply profound type of healing…

To begin to see the possibility that there can be wholeness despite ill health needs us all to grasp that personhood is about more than just our physical shape or functioning.  We are our whole self, whatever that package brings with it.  It is that entirety that we need to be comfortable with to find wholeness whatever our limitations.  Frank Wright , in his book, The Pastoral Nature of Healing speaks of

healing to be the essential ‘I’.

For each of us not to aim for some supposed ideal, but to realise the distinctive individuality that God gives to each of us (As stated in The Church and the Ministry of Healing A Methodist Statement adopted in 1977).

Simon Bailey, wrote a brilliant book called The Well Within, exploring his experience of living with HIV.  The subtitle, Parables for Living and Dying say it all – read it if ever you come across a copy.  In that book he speaks of acknowledging the sense of calling specific to me, to which I must be honest and loyal.   To become the very most that I can be should be the only concern for each of us, whatever that “I” turns out to be.  In the words of John F. X. Harriott,

everyone can create a masterpiece – themselves

Healing does not bring out our likeness to others, but it will bring out our likeness to ourself.

We will never achieve ultimate healing in this life, but perhaps wholeness is possible. If we can find a point at which we can accept and live with what continuing illness is going to mean for us, then we can begin to move towards the potential in that.  This will not be a once and for all acceptance, but having internalised it, taking it with us into the rest of life.  Denial and rationalisation are self-protective defence mechanisms for preserving emotional well-being, therefore should not be dismantled until there is something else, i.e. acceptance, available to go in their place.  The ultimate will be when we have honestly faced what is within us, we have nothing to fear – in ourselves, or the world.  If we know what is there, it is no longer a threat.  The healthiest way of being ill is to come to terms with the truth.

Perhaps for me the definition of healing in this way has to be,

knowing what is there, but not letting it be a crippling factor in experiences, relationships, and situations that I encounter.  Knowing there will be no getting rid of the fact, but incorporating that into what I am.  Whether I like it or not, it is part of me.  If I can live with it, rather than against it, and it becomes part of the offering that is me.  Acceptance brings being able to face and handle my experience, to speak of it and touch it – to myself, others and God.

Knowing our own wounds, we are able to identify with  the world’s pain and stand alongside those who suffer without focusing so hard on how it affects us.  The wound will still be there, and scar tissue is more sensitive than other skin, but knowledge and acceptance of that show that we have incorporated the truth into our very being.  That is no longer a controlling factor, but part of what makes us what we are.  The fact that it is there makes us no better or worse that a supposed “healthy” person.

Simon Bailey writes of living with the knowledge that he was HIV positive as a “brick wall” for the first years, then coming to the point of realising he had to talk to himself – to “step into the wilderness”.  The brick wall is about refusing to accept the affliction, denying it’s presence and repercussions – an inevitable part of the process of assimilating the information.  Moving into the wilderness of despair can seem like a backward step, but it is the beginning of acceptance, as we do at last allow ourselves to feel something about what is happening to us. Going into the desert forces us to probe the basic foundations of our lives, to face what we are and to reflect on the deep questions.  (Simon Bailey would define those as: Who are you really?;  What do you really want?; Where really are you going?; What really are you afraid of? ) As we discover what is there we can grow as we incorporate the feelings and effects of our illness into them.  In accepting pain and suffering we are not taking on a resigned passivity, but finding the courage to face the facts.  The pain can then be spoken aloud, which begins to give it meaning.

In terms of healing beginning where brokenness remains, recovery begins as we are able to slowly turn outwards to face the world again.  To find a level of ease so that ‘I’ am not my soul consideration, but finding a level of comfort with what is, acknowledging my identity as this person who cannot do something.  When we can face the truth it no longer lurks in the background, with the potentiality to control or destroy.  It is taken on board, if not welcome, at least in full knowledge that it is there, and that being OK.  For healing to begin, pain has to be faced.  If it is ignored, it will trip us up at some time.  If we try to keep pain buried, it can fester and cause all kinds of other problems.

Frank Wright states that

as we draw to God, we are drawn together as a person made whole.

This is true, but only when we let him in to those broken, hurting parts.  God can do nothing, or at least what he does has no effect, until the one who is hurting allows him. God does not force his way into lives.

Equally, yes Christ shares in the pain with us, but will not always magic it away. The road to acceptance may not be easy.  There may be much kicking and screaming along the way, and the place of kicking and screaming may be returned to. Yet ultimately suffering will be a forward movement.  As Wright says

Healing liberates us to set out again on the adventure of life – and enables us to be available for the healing of others.

We will know what we really stand on – tested in the fire.  We will be more grounded people, less glib, more aware of our fragility.   Some awareness of the wound must continue, but not it’s hold over us.

So healing is about, not necessarily getting rid of, but learning to live with all that we are – and are not.

I mentioned God not forcing himself into our lives, but being ready and waiting.  This is perhaps our model for care of those who are hurting.  We need to be alongside them, but cannot force our way in to a place where they are not, or cannot yet let us in to.  We cannot try to push people to move faster than they want or are able.

And this I will look at in the third part tomorrow.